What do NetBeans, Ruby and AppleScript have in common? There’s a circular definition of sorts to explain…to start, all are tools available to developers working on Mac. Next, NetBeans has full support for creating, debugging and packaging Ruby code. And finally, Ruby (with the right tools in place) can be used within NetBeans to control scriptable applications on a Mac, something which is typically accomplished using AppleScript.

In this post I’ll describe more about how all these tools come together to provide an interesting approach for using Ruby as an alternative to AppleScript, and working with NetBeans as the development environment for writing and building those same applications.

The screencast that follows will walk you through all the steps to download the tools you’ll need, build from source a scripting bridge (rb-appscript) for Ruby to AppleScript, and finally, create several short examples to demonstrate how you can use Ruby, from within NetBeans to control scriptable applications.

For more information, follow these links:

If you are interested to learn more about using Ruby as an alternative to AppleScript, I’ve written as series of posts you can find here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

If you write an interesting application in NetBeans, using Ruby and rb-appscript, drop me a note, as I’d like to post several good examples showing the interaction of all these tools.

As an aside, NetBeans is sponsoring a blogging contest for the 6.1 Beta. If you are interested in learning more, visit the NetBeans Blogging Contest. And who knows, you could walk away with one of ten $500 American Express gift certificates!

In this post I’ll show how to use the interactive help system within rb-appscript to explore the scripting interface for an application. To begin, you’ll need to verify that you have installed ASDictionary version 0.9.0 or later. You can download ASDictionary from here.

I would recommend you verify the path to the Ruby interpreter within the ASDictionary preference settings. To determine the location of the Ruby interpreter on your system, enter which ruby in a terminal:

Copy the path (where Ruby is located on your system) into the Preferences dialog for ASDictionary as shown below. That should do it for configuration.

The best way to understand how the interactive help works is to go through an example. So, let’s say that you are interested to get the name of every item in the Documents folder…begin by starting the Ruby interactive interpreter , following by the necessary require/include statements (see below) and creating a reference to the Finder application. From Finder, we can make our first request for help, by invoking Finder.help:

Notice there is a property (highlighted above) for a home property, which provides a shortcut to the user’s Home folder. Taking this one step further, let’s request additional help entering Finder.home.help:

Under the list of Elements, notice the reference to folders, which indicates that a folder object has a one-to-many relationship with the file system objects it contains. Using this information, you could now access all the sub-folders of the home folder using the folders element.

Appscript uses the #[] method to specify elements by name, so to get the Documents folder of the Home folder you could use: finder.home.folders['Documents']. Referring again to the help information, we know that we can get the contents (items) of a folder using the items element. Using items will identify all of the folder’s contents. Notice the other options such as files, alias_files, application_files, etc that we can use to identify only certain types of items within a folder.

We can further drill down with the help system to get more information about the items within a folder using finder.home.folders['Documents'].items.help, as shown below:

Notice we can now access an items name, extension, among other properties. We began with the intention to get the name of every item in the Document folders, and with the last help statement, we now have all the information we need. The full rb-appscript statement looks like this: finder.home.folders['Documents'].items.name.get

You can read more about the help system in the rb-appscript manual.

Additional posts in the series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

In the previous posts on rb-appscript I dug into some code to show how you can use Ruby and rb-appscript to accomplish the same tasks available with AppleScript. Let’s take a few steps back to look closer at some of the workings behind AppleScript, which is important to understand if you want to begin any serious work regardless of the scripting language you choose.

The Open Scripting Architecture (OSA) is designed to allow for automating tasks, inter-application communication and otherwise directing application behavior. Apple events are the backbone of OSA, facilitating messaging and interaction with applications (think interprocess communication).
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My intention in starting this series of posts on Ruby was to re-write two short AppleScript applications; one that turns down the volume at shutdown, and one that resets the volume upon bootup. We’ve covered enough information up to this point to have all we need to write the Ruby version (using rb-appscript).
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So enough of the introductions (see Part 1 and Part 2), let’s get on with the code. To get started, let’s look at how to use scripting additions from within rb-appscript as the application that I have in mind will need to display a dialog box (which is located in Standard Additions). We can get a list of the additions currently available as well as a list of commands using the following Ruby code:
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In Part 1 of this series I walked through the steps to install rb-appscript, a scripting bridge that provides an alternative to AppleScript for controlling scriptable applications on a Mac.

My intention in exploring an alternative was to find an option for scripting beyond AppleScript itself and to rewrite an AppleScript program that I was currently using. The original AppleScript code was written to turn down the volume upon shutdown, to enable a silent bootup process. You can read the who, what and why in the original post.

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AppleScript is a scripting language that provides the ability to control “scriptable” applications on a Mac. AppleScript provides an interface to the Apple Event messaging architecture, the means by which applications communicate with one another as well as the underlying OS.

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